I am interested in the confluent histories of race, the environment, media and knowledge-making in the Atlantic world from the seventeenth century up through the present, with a particular emphasis on southern and Caribbean plantation zones.  My early work involved a study of the Anglophone transatlantic networks and rhetorics of knowledge production around American nature, called American Curiosity: Cultures of Natural History in the Colonial British Atlantic World (UNCP, 2006), a winner of both the Jamestown and Emerson Prizes.  Articles followed on such Anglo-Atlantic figures as William Byrd II, Robert Beverley, John Gabriel Stedman, and Richard Ligon.  My second book, The Flood Year 1927: A Cultural History (Princeton UP, 2017), examines how the most devastating, and publicly absorbing, US flood of the 20th century took on meaning as it moved across media platforms, across sectional divides and across the color line. It received  the MLA’s James Russell Lowell Prize (Honorable Mention) and ASLE’s biennial book prize for the best book of ecocriticism (Honorable Mention).

Recent projects include The Cambridge Companion to American Literature and the Environment, co-edited with Sarah Ensor (May 2022); a Norton Critical Edition of William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (2023); an essay exploring the shared histories of the novel and disaster from Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year to Ward’s Salvage the Bones in Critical Disaster Studies (UPennP, 2021); and an article, “Jordan Peele’s Get Out and the Mediation of History” in Representations 155.1 (Summer 2021).

I am currently researching my next monograph, The Talking Woods: Black American Life and Its Forest Materials. Focusing on the period 1780 to 1940, I explore the many ways in which the woods have long mattered to American Black individuals and communities as spaces not only of danger and forced labor but also as spaces of harbor, divinity, fellowship, aesthetic provocation, and knowledge making. In turn, as I plan to show, the labor, craft, and talent of Black Americans have transformed American woods.

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